My last few months [in office] did not go quietly or without consequence. They even brought historic moments—none more so than my much anticipated visit to Libya to meet with Colonel Muammar Qaddafi. When the Libyans gave up their weapons of mass destruction in 2003, there was a clear diplomatic quid pro quo: in exchange, we’d help them to return to good standing in the international community. But it would not be easy and not only because of Qaddafi’s long record of brutality.
Libya had arrested five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor several years before on trumped-up charges that they had deliberately infected more than four hundred Libyan children with HIV. The medics insisted that they were innocent, but the Libyan courts had sentenced the group to death. The United States repeatedly urged Libya to find a way to release them, and I was grateful for the dedication and leadership of European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner on the issue. Libya’s decision in 2007 to commute the sentences and allow the medics to return home was due in large part to Benita’s resolve.